Date: 20th February 2009 at 10:26pm
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After a month long of agony over a languid transfer saga and another two weeks of inactivity, Arsenal fans will arrive at Ashburton Grove Saturday for the 3pm kickoff to see our new high dollar signing, Andrey Arshavin. I haven’t been this excited about an Arsenal transfer in a long time, probably since Reyes. I have a sneaky feeling that Andrey will not have any complaints about the weather here, only the hairdressers!

You can tell the difference in this transfer versus others at Arsenal by just logging onto club’s official website. On the front page it is Arshavin this, Arshavin that, buy the new Arshavin jersey, download the new Arshavin mobile wallpaper, and so on. Rarely does the club buy the finished product, and they are looking regain most of that transfer fee through merchandise. While the board has their sights on that, Arsene will be hoping that Andrey will have the effect on the team that Eduardo did on Monday. With Aston Villa and Chelsea playing the early fixture tomorrow, we need to capitalize on whoever drops points.

Vital Quotes:

I wonder what subject the pre-match quotes will be dominated by?

“Yes [I think that] because he has personality and a strong character,” said Arsene Wenger. “The handicap he has at the moment is that he is not completely fit physically, but all the rest should be quite quick.’

‘He can integrate well our combination game. He can move very well, he is very mobile so that is something we work on as well. He is a clever passer of the ball and that is something you need in every big team to open teams up.’

I have not yet decided if he will start, I will decide that tomorrow morning. But he is in the squad for tomorrow and we will see.’

Samir Nasri had this to say about the Russian. ‘I played against Arshavin when he was at Zenit St. Petersburg and I was at Marseilles, he`s an excellent player. He will give us that little bit more penetration and incisiveness which the team have been lacking recently.’

Arsenal Team News:

The injury news from Monday is that Eduardo tweaked a hamstring two minutes before being substituted off in his return. He will be out another 2 weeks. Bendtner needs to take this chance and perform in the League like he has in both domestic cups this season.

In long term injury news, it will be about 4 to 5 more weeks before we have a fully fit squad, unless somebody else gets injured of course. Rosicky is three weeks away from training, Cesc is four weeks away from match fitness, and Theo is only two weeks away from first team action. Diaby is almost back, while Adebayor is another two to three weeks. If we can hit form, stay in the FA Cup and Champions League, and then get those players back, every team in Europe should be wary of us, even Barcelona and United.

Possible Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy, Arshavin, Song, Denilson, Nasri, van Persie, Bendtner

Player to watch: Andrey Arshavin

All the hype and expectations can be a lot for a big money signing to handle as Robbie Keane, Shevchenko, and VerĂ³n can surely attest to. I feel though with his technical ability and deceiving pace, he will have no problem fitting into the pass and move triangle system that Arsenal loves to play.

Sunderland Team News:

Sunderland regular Phil Bardsley is out, and either Calcum Davenport or Tal Ben Haim will step up in his absence. Nosworthy will still be out with a groin injury, but Paul McShane and Teemu Tainio could make their return for the Black Cats.

Player to watch: Kenwyne Jones

Sunderland managed to keep their prized asset during the Winter shopping window, so Kenwyne Jone will ready on Saturday to break Arsenal’s three match clean sheet run. His aerial presence should require the return of Djourou to the starting lineup.

Match Facts & Stats

Arsenal have beat Sunderland at home four straight times.

Arsenal are unbeaten in 12 games dating back to the Champions League loss at Porto.

Clichy will be making his 150th start for Arsenal.

Home and away

League (inc PL): Arsenal 46 wins, Sunderland 43, Draws 34

Prem: Arsenal 9 wins, Sunderland 2, Draws 4

at Arsenal only

League (inc PL): Arsenal 33 wins, Sunderland 15, Draws 13

Prem: Arsenal 6 wins, Sunderland 0, Draws 1

Ref Watch:

Alan Wiley will take charge of his fourth match involving Arsenal this Premier League season. In total he has managed 17 games handing out one red and forty two yellows, which gives him a 2.53 card per game average.

Match Prediction:

There is a wave of confidence emanating from London Colney right now, and I cannot see Sunderland stopping Arsenal and Arshavin in this one. I will go with a 4-1 victory to the home side.

Next Fixtures:

24/2 (Tue)- AS Roma (H)- Champions League

28/2 (Sat)- Fulham (H)- Premier League

3/3 (Tue)- West Brom (A)- Premier League